Recycling robot reduces waste concrete and water

Sensemaking / Recycling robot reduces waste concrete and water

Student concept uses high pressure water jet system to repackage waste concrete for reuse.

By Alex Fenton / 17 Dec 2013

Ever wondered where waste concrete ends up? A student at Sweden’s Umeå Institute of Design, Omer Haciomeroglu, has: his ERO Concrete Recycling Robot design [pictured] aims to recycle concrete without producing the waste associated with current crushing machines and hydrodemolition systems.

In Europe, the US and Japan alone, over 900 million tonnes of concrete is wasted every year. The ERO concept uses water jets to crack the concrete surface of buildings and ‘peel’ it off, which avoids damaging the rebar (steel used to reinforce concrete structures). Concrete that would otherwise end up in landfills is then sucked up and separated from dust and rebar, before being repackaged on site for use in new pre-fabricated buildings. The robot can even scan its surroundings and determine the best route for carrying out the operation.

Although other hydrodemolition systems already exist, none claim to be able to recycle the huge amount of water necessary for the process. However, the majority of the water used by the ERO robot would be separated from solids via a centrifugal decanter and used to clean the rebar of dust and rust, ensuring that very little of it is wasted.

As Haciomeroglu puts it, “This is meant to be a provocative alternative that would turn the heads of investors and contractors towards truly sustainable concepts.” This new approach to concrete recycling could also pave the way for more efficient business. “I could buy the aggregate and rebar from your concrete building before you even deconstruct it, which creates a whole new range of future business opportunities.”

Haciomeroglu has taken steps to ensure the design is feasible, carrying out extensive research into the background of concrete recycling. Interviews with experts in the field in several international locations, as well as consultations with mechanical engineers, have helped to ensure the project is realistic in its aims.

Concrete production already accounts for 5% of annual anthropogenic global CO2 emissions (those produced by human activities), and, by 2050, concrete production is set to be four times the 1990 level. As Jonathon Porritt, Founder- Director of Forum for the Future, has pointed out, “sustainability doesn’t get much tougher than in concrete”. Therefore, innovative designs and concepts like the ERO robot could have a drastic impact on the way we use, and reuse, concrete in the future. – Alex Fenton

Photo credit: aragami123345/iStockphoto/Thinkstock

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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